Arnie Reisman began writing his Washashore column for The Gazette in 2012. The following column, about the end of Says You !, the longtime comedy quiz he was a panelist on, was tabled last week. Mr Reisman died Monday morning at the age of 79.
I can see a title now. YOU SAY! Say goodbye!
After 25 years on public radio stations across America, the weekly comedy quiz show has ceased. The show ceased production of new episodes in late September and will only return as a classic reruns offer.
While the archives are teeming with great shows, for my part, I will be nostalgic, if not sad, to see it boldly step into the past. With my wife, Paula Lyons, I was in the cast of Day One. In this wayward business of fan-based success, we’ve had a good run for the money. A prairie house mate has been on and off for 40 years. Car Talk has been doing live broadcasts for 30 years. We are in good company.
In the final analysis, Says You! succumbed to Covid. The pandemic has crippled the show’s continued escapades to the live audience’s home country. With theaters closed, travel not recommended, online presentations being the only opportunity for new episodes, the show in all honesty couldn’t go on. With each cast member in a different location, appearing in different boxes on computer screens, there was no feeling of chemistry. And without an audience to play with, there was no society of mutual admiration.
We need live shows. Sometimes we would show up in front of a crowd of a thousand people. We felt like a rock band. The public is indeed part of the cast, pushing us with fervor, laughing where we hope to hear laughter. A show needs a stimulating environment.
On the other hand, once this pandemic is over, there would be yet another wrinkle staring us in the face – it’s that wrinkle on our face in the mirror. The combined age of our original six panelists is now equal to the combined age of the Red Sox and Yankees starting eleven. By pop culture standards, I was an old man when this series started. It is time to make room for young artists, young ideas.
Of course, the series received its first blow in February 2015, when our lovable and ingenious host-producer-creator, Richard Sher, passed away from cancer. The captain of our ship was gone. We sailed bravely, but it was not the same. This death in the family has left an abyss. If classic reruns are the way of the future, it will be great to hear his voice and playfulness again. Like listening to Car Talk reruns after the exuberant Tom Magliozzi, half of Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, passed away three months before Richard Sher.
As a chef and bottle washer, Richard asked many questions, guided us on stage, directed the audience, edited the program in his home office, booked venues for us across the country, booked us airlines and hotels. , and eaten-sleep-dream says you! He created the show and aired it in 1996. The concept was pretty basic: hire two teams of three “personalities” each – preferably extroverts not afraid to make a fool of themselves. Adapt the questions to what appear to be their possible bailiwicks. Bring two of the youngest audience members on stage to be the scorers. Hire a musical group to entertain people in dead spaces.
Richard also asked members of the public and radio listeners to send in questions, not to crush the signs but to amuse them. He always said, “Better to love the answer than to know the answer.”
Popular categories of the show include: definitions and derivations, merged movie titles, new words in the dictionary, geography in puns, not so famous people at famous events, common thread, Odd Man Out.
This last category earned me my “cred” on public radio very early on. I was asked the question: “Who does not belong to this group and why? Paul McCartney, Babe Ruth, John McEnroe and Eric Clapton.
I thought about what seemed like an idea and blurted out, “Eric Clapton. He is the only right-hander.
Richard looked at me like I had shot a dart in his stomach. “That’s right!”
My stunned wife looked at me and said, “Who. Are. You?”
It helps to have a photographic memory, which I inherited from my father. The show was the perfect recycling center for all the trivia that turned my brain into a storage bin. The show also boosted public confidence, making stage fright a thing of the past. After many years, when I got out of the backstage, it was like walking into a living room. For the next two and a half hours (we did two shows separated by an intermission), I was in a performance zone, completely focused on “Be here now”. There was no rehearsal for these performances. To reach this area, I drank three cups of coffee and turned off the editor in my head.
The live audience heard a lot of taunts and jokes that the radio audience never heard. Richard’s smart process was to remove all topical references, all topical humor. Each show ready to air results in timelessness. In other words, these evergreens are ripe for reruns.
I have seen a lot of this country and met a lot of radio fans, clearly smarter in many ways than the panelists. I will miss them. I’ll keep chatting with the cast and crew. And I will truly miss Richard Sher.